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VivaTech 2024: How ready are companies and countries for an AI revolution?

VivaTech in Paris
VivaTech in Paris Copyright Cyril Fourneris
Copyright Cyril Fourneris
By Cyril Fourneris
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Hundreds of speakers are giving their views on the upheaval caused by artificial intelligence (AI) at the Viva Technology fair in Paris. Tech experts told Euronews Next about how Europeans can ensure they aren't being left behind.


As generative artificial intelligence (GenAI) progresses, the impact of this technology is more tangible than ever, but one of the main challenges will be to train enough people in the new skills required by the AI revolution, tech insiders told Euronews Next.

"We don't see AI replacing humans but humans who use AI potentially replacing people who don't," said Lisa Heneghan, KPMG's Global Chief Digital Officer.

Heneghan spoke at the VivaTech fair in Paris this week during a session called "Upskilling/reskilling: future-proofing your career in the AI age".

"One thing is certain: organisations have to start now. So we help them to find a framework," she said.

KPMG, one of the world's largest audit and consultancy firms, hopes to be a leader in helping companies embrace AI.

The group says that it has trained over 85,000 employees, for them to learn and embrace this tech.

"About 12 months ago, we started to make very significant investments, several billion dollars working specifically with Microsoft in the first instance, and those investments were all around AI," she added.

How ready is Europe for AI?

Like companies, countries are also gearing up for the AI revolution.

France made a series of announcements this week ahead of VivaTech that aim to strengthen French and European AI.

On the eve of VivaTech, President Emmanuel Macron welcomed the French AI elite to the Elysée Palace and announced a plan to make Paris an "AI capital" and to hold an international summit in 2025.

Among the guests were representatives of French tech companies such as Mistral AI and Scaleway, a French cloud provider with ambitions to become a European hyper scaler capable of competing with Google or Tencent.

To get the AI revolution going, Europe needs a lot of hardware and capacity, said Jean-Baptiste Kempf, the French computer scientist behind the video app VLC who is now working to help Scaleway grow.

"A lot of companies here use American clouds, and that raises major questions about sovereignty. You'd have to be naive to think that data can't be exfiltrated. Europeans have been too naive, in my opinion", says Kempf.

Jean-Baptiste Kempf
Jean-Baptiste KempfEuronews/Cyril Fourneris

But Kempf said he believes "that Europe still has a card to play in this technological revolution".

According to Adrien Chaltiel, co-founder of the innovation financing platform Eldorado, France has become increasingly competitive in AI and investment has returned to high levels.

"Everyone has improved their skills, and there are founders who have now found very high-tech stakes," he said.

"To be competitive with the USA, we need the same level of technology and financing. We've managed to repatriate some talent, but we also need more cutting-edge companies to keep up the salaries. There's also a geopolitical aspect to this, and that's why Macron is getting involved," Chaltiel added.

Several world-class French computer scientists have moved to the United States to pursue their research, the most famous being Yann Le Cun, chief AI scientist at Meta. He is again at VivaTech this year.

To be competitive with the USA, we need the same level of technology and financing.
Adrien Chaltiel

"The strength of the United States is its ecosystem. In San Francisco, there are events every evening. Everyone presents their solution in five minutes, we eat three pizzas and get to talk," said Florian Barbaro, who worked on AI in the United States before moving back to France to set up his company UncovAI in Nice.

UncovAI offers innovative solutions for detecting AI-generated content and combating disinformation.

"Some states are ahead of the game when it comes to using generative models," said the young entrepreneur.

Barbaro explained that the detection of AI-generated data is also a major challenge for the AI ecosystem.

"Tomorrow, if a company wants to extract data from the Internet to update its model, it runs the risk of doing so on generated data, which can generate biases and reduce accuracy," said Barbaro.

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